South West

From mining tin to harvesting the sun!

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wheal jane aerialOver 5,600 solar panels have transformed the site of an old Truro tin mine to generate electricity for 400 homes when the South West’s first solar farm – and one of the biggest in the UK to date – was connected to the grid in Cornwall recently.

 The project was carried out for UK-based solar developer Lightsource Renewable Energy, working with solar energy company Solarcentury. Local contractors were employed to carry out the work, preparing the land, supplying fencing and installing the solar panels. Electrical Contractors were Arun Construction Services. The project is funded by Octopus Investments.

On the site of a disused tin mine, the 1.4 MW farm covers a 7.2acre plot at Wheal Jane, and is the first of many renewable energy projects planned at the reclaimed mine. The farm’s 5,680 solar panels will generate 1,437 MWh of electricity a year, enough to power the equivalent of 430 homes in the area and save over 737 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.wheal-jane before

Wheal Jane Before

The installation of the panels involves piling, mounting a frame and then mounting the solar modules which are then connected to a connection box and the grid.

Conor McGuigan, Head of Planning, Lightsource Renewable Energy said that the project had gone well – especially considering that it was rare for the company to construct a scheme such as this on a brownfield site. “The weather, ground conditions and topography of the site, which required piling, made this a challenging project, particularly as we had to get the solar panels angled at exactly 27 degrees.

wheal-jane-after
Wheal Jane After

“It’s fantastic to see our first solar farm in the South West operational. It’s been a race against the clock to get it connected to the grid.

“Cornwall Council, Western Power Distribution, Wheal Jane Group, 35 Degrees, Solarcentury and the local suppliers have all played a significant role in making this happen. They were all excellent. Caron Construction who carried out a lot of the site works were fantastic.

“While it’s been disappointing that the Government has decided not to support the large scale solar sector going forward, the solar farms developed this summer will play a critical role in the supply of green energy in the UK. We look forward to helping building owners develop solar projects from this point.”

Derry Newman, CEO, Solarcentury added: “To see a tin mine diversify into producing 21st Century clean solar energy, provides an optimistic glimpse of where we’re now heading for our energy production. Wheal Jane’s solar farm demonstrates that solar technology can contribute to our clean energy future, and quickly.  Solarcentury designed and constructed this site in less than two months.  Solar is not to be underestimated; it is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, simply because it is clean, reliable and a readily available alternative to fossil fuels.”

Julian German, Cornwall Council cabinet member for the Environment, said: “It’s great to see the UK’s biggest solar farm opening in Cornwall where we are well placed to take advantage of the significant potential of solar power. Wheal Jane solar farm demonstrates how these developments have been sensitively sited, maintaining the balance of our need for clean energy and maintaining our landscape. Despite the Government’s change in policy on Feed-in tariffs, we are determined to ensure that solar energy brings great benefits to businesses and communities throughout Cornwall. Those with roof space for solar should see it as not only as helping to contribute to our clean energy future but a rewarding investment.”

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